Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Tee Commandments

Spring is here. Your calendar declares it, even as your local weather denies it. Regardless, as warmer weather approaches, bringing with it changes in attitude, style and lifestyle, The Good Guy sees a need to address impending issues, and will begin to do so now, first tackling that most ubiquitous of warm-weather wearables, the t-shirt.

First and foremost, an understanding of its nature and necessity. The short-sleeved t-shirt, or tee, is the most casual item of clothing a man can (or should ever) wear in public, at least on his torso. Tank-tops and shirts with out sleeves should remain the exclusive domain of the 80’s and Nick Lachey. The white, ribbed cotton, sleeveless tank, or “wife-beater,” is called that for a reason, as it’s use as a garment on it’s own has been for decades set aside for the strictly whiskey-tango set, ie. K-Fed, Jersey Shore, et al. But as you are obviously a gentleman of style and distinction, or at least a man with the wherewithal to aspire to be, we shall assume that the basic rules of t-shirtdom are clear to you, and a simple review of the more specific guidelines and perhaps some subtle prodding in the appropriate direction are all that is in order.

How to Wear
To begin with then, let us discuss the appropriate fit. As with any shirt, the sleeve should begin at the outermost edge of the top of the shoulder, not riding closer to the neck nor hanging down over the arm. The short sleeves of a short-sleeved tee should fall somewhere between the middle of the bicep and the bottom of the tricep. Any higher and you risk venturing into capped sleeve land, a strictly feminine (or at least non-masculine) province. Lower, and you lose the opportunity to showcase those upper arms you’ve spent the last several weeks toning in anticipation of boat weather to come. The bottom hem should settle close to two but no more than to three inches below your belt loops. This length insures that, while the midriff is never exposed, except under the most extreme conditions, such as fetching another bottle from the top shelf or a fully-extended frisby grab, you likewise don’t completely cover the upper portion of your lower body – gangster you are not. When in doubt, err on the slightly longer side, plumber’s crack is strictly for plumbers. The general fit should be comfortable, never too baggy, never too tight. A hint for the larger man, who finds that a tee roomy enough to comfortably cover his bulk comes with more than desirable length in the torso and sleeves – your neighborhood tailor will gladly correct that fit for a nominal fee, well worth the investment. And to be fair, a hint to the gym rat who feels that it would be unjust to deprive the opposite sex by not wearing a tee that exposes every detail of his carefully constructed, protein shake-supplemented upper body – it isn’t.

Where to Wear
As discussed, t-shirts are the most casual of casual wear, as evidenced by the fact that occasional overnight guests also consider them sleepwear. Keep that in mind when wondering whether your favorite tee is appropriate attire for a dinner date or night on the town. To make things easy, just assume it probably isn’t. Heed The Good Guy’s words, the days of ultra-casual style, where distressed jeans and over-adorned tees are acceptable social attire are over, whether the stylistically uneducated and unaware acknowledge it or not. Day time outings to the park or patio, sporting events and concerts remain the acceptable atmosphere of the t-shirt sporting, clothes-conscious man. Pair a well-fitting tee with jeans and boots for rock shows, barely-pressed khakis and slip-on loafers for casual afternoon get-togethers, shorts and sandals for patio parties, crawfish boils and the like. Chuck Taylor canvas sneakers are almost always appropriate accompanying footwear, as they are in all of the situations above.

What to Wear
The last several years have produced a proliferation of graphic tees such as the world has never known. And while the opportunity for your attire to announce to the world your position on topics varying from politics to pot, music, movies, sex and other culturally relevant subjects, one must tread carefully. Choose your messages with thought. Vulgarity is never appropriate – wearing a tee with the word FUCK on it is as equally inappropriate as walking around yelling it at every person you see. (And just so you know, FUKC and F!CK also mean fuck, but also mean you are stupid enough to wear a shirt that says fuck, but too chicken shit to back it up.) Also inappropriate are tees adorned with pot leaves or other drug paraphernalia – keep it to your self. However, simple, stylish tees with unique, thought-provoking or truly witty messages are great conversation starters, as are ambiguous yet eye-catching designs, when not over-done. Concert tees have come along way from the 70’s, when there was seemingly an overabundance of jet black cotton in the world. Promote your favorite under-appreciated band, or simply let your friends know that you have better taste in music than they do. In these cases, choose the less obvious designs and colors. Vintage tees are often a great choice, making typically nonsensical choices somehow uber-cool – summer camps you didn’t attend, high-school bands you never played in and concerts performed before you were even born. Avoid however obvious knock-offs and overly “vintage-style” selections that litter the internet and aisles of Target and Urban Outfitters. For a safe, stylish, appropriate and infinitely adaptable choice, acquire a selection of well made, well-fitting tees in solid colors, starting of course with black and white. Vary from crew to v-neck and henley, and look for simple, subtle details such as contrast colored stitching to catch the discerning eye. Pair with patterned shorts or trousers to add texture, and layer under a casual jacket or blazer to dress it up when the situation or temperature requires.

Get Them Here
As discussed, the casual trends of the last several years have led to an over abundance of choices, and t-shirt shoppers should have no trouble finding that just right tee with minimal effort. Here though are a few bits of advice from The Good Guy. While the above mentioned Target, Urban Outfitters, as well as Express, Gap, Banana Republic etc. offer a huge selection of typically well made and often interesting tees, they are also shopped daily by millions, meaning that super-sweet, funny as hell, vintage-looking tee you picked up for $12 to $24 will probably also adorn the chest of 200 to 2,000 too-lazy-to-look further guys just like you. And if you think running into one of them tonight and sharing a laugh and high-five because you are both wearing the exact same tee is cool, stop reading now. As discussed, thrift stores and resale shops are a safe bet for those in search of one-of-kind finds. With a little online browsing, one can easily find a distinct purchase that is reasonably certain to be the only one of its kind within a 30 mile radius at least. Check out Threadless for super selection and frequent updates, visit Etsy to find rarer designs while supporting independent artists, or search out an as of yet under-the-radar, up-and coming favorite like the vintage rock-inspired and thought-provoking Tupelo Grease Co. Or, stay in your own back yard, patronizing local boutiques like Houston’s Hello Lucky for unique and stylish looks created by your neighbors. For unembellished styles, get the good stuff at a premium price through high-end big-box retailers like Neiman’s, Saks, Nordstrom’s and Barney’s, or go basic with online retailers such as Alternative or American Apparel. (The Good Guy prefers Alternative, for both the quality of their products and their lack of boorish advertising and CEO’s.)

And I Shouldn’t Have to Say This, But…

No man, ever, (ever) under any circumstances, (ever) should own a shirt whose design incorporates rhinestones, swarovski crystals or has been otherwise bedazzled. To play it safe, also avoid overly aggressive designs with an abundance of skulls or skeletons and in-your-face tattoo themes. Yes, I’m looking at you Ed Hardy and Christian Audigier, Monarchy, Smet, etc.

As always, The Good Guy welcomes your additional input, comments and contradictions (though in this case, we know we are right - and you probably do too.)

1 comment:

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